Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Stop the presses! We've launched the daily BnB!

We have developed a great new little daily publication that focuses on food, food bloggers, photography and the city of Toronto. We are extremely happy to introduce the daily BnB! We look forwards to a great partnership with  paper.li and all the contributors for the daily BnB. Enjoy being kept informed! Comments are always welcomed! Thanks! Remember to experience something new everyday! We at baguettes and butterscotch want you to come and visit for the food and stay for the conversation!

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

How can I help you? Grilling explained....

How to get perfect grill marks on the BBQ? Simply & easily…all the time!
Answer, it is as simple as 10 o’clock  and 2 o’clock. Just like your driving instructor told you while you were first learning to drive. I’d like to give you a few hints on how to impress yourself and your friends with your BBQ prowess.
First, the most important thing about getting great grill marks on any kind of meat, fish or vegetable is to make sure that you pre-heat grill!
Scrape and brush clean your BBQ grill. Once its nice and hot get what you are cooking ready!
Lightly oil your grill and get ready to cook!
After you have decided what you are going to cook first.  Chicken before beef..you know...to time everything so that everything finishes at the same time. 
Place what you are cooking on to the side that you would like to mark first.  We call this the “presentation side” it is the side we chefs choose to present to our hungry diners.
If you can imagine the face of a clock.  You want to place(the chicken breast in my case) at an angle from the 2 o’clock  position to 8 o’clock. Let sit, I know the temptation to lift it up and check is strong but you must resist!  If you are impatient and lift the chicken too early it may have a tendency to stick.
If you are judging that you will be cooking a chicken breast on each side for 8mins depending on thickness.  I would decide to turn the chicken at the 4 minute mark.
Once time is up change its position on the grill. Imagine that clock face again and turn the chicken to a 10 o’clock direction to 4 o’clock orientation on the grill. 

Wait the remaining allotted time on the first side and then flip it over.  I usually mark one side and flip and cook whatever it is that I am cooking on the other side to the desired doneness.  
Once you flip it over you will see perfect grill marks and it will always garner you compliments  and  will make for a great photo for your blog!
Keep posted for other simple and quick tips soon!  Get out and get cooking!

Monday, 16 May 2011

Charcuterie...oh where can I find the best?

The Black Hoof

Upon entering this restaurant on the hunt for Toronto’s best charcuterie, I was impressed with the modern décor and ambient lighting. I was greeted by the hostess and requested a seat at the bar (there was a waiting list for tables, so I opted for the bar seating).  The small yet efficiently designed kitchen is bustling with activity – however there is a sense of controlled chaos that engulfs the kitchen area.  Once we get seated, the bartender takes our first round order of drinks. I go for a pear cider and my partner goes for a cosmopolitan. The bartender, with his efficient and perfectionist ways, mixes the perfect cosmopolitan and pours a perfect pint of cider.

Having no regular menu, it allows the Black Hoof to create unique daily menus that use the freshest ingredients. The Black Hoof serves food that hovers around peoples’ love for all things meat - incorporating all parts head to tail. 

As we placed our order, we knew we were in for something special.  Being a first time guest, we relied heavily on the bartender’s recommendations. He assured us that we could choose no wrong.  Up first was the large charcuterie platter and bread.  When it arrived, we were taken through the different kinds of meat that would be delighting our palates. The cured meats and pâtés (minus one) were prepared in house, making each of these scrumptious delights exclusive to the Black Hoof.  Ever since my first charcuterie at Eight Wine Bar at the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Toronto, I have been on the prowl for more unique charcuterie plates.  To summarize, the Black Hoof charcuterie is a MUST have!

From there, we moved on to uncharted territory - constantly in awe at the buzz in the kitchen.  Considering the limited space, the use of household equipment and the quality of the food – it is truly amazing that this level of cooking can be done. Up next, we were brought what can only be said to be one of the most exquisite tasting stews in the world, the Tripe and Trotter Stew. It is full of flavour! The meat is melt in your mouth tender and the sauce lusciously rich.  The highlight of our meal arrived next – the Raw Horse Sammy (sandwich). One word, divine!   The seasoned horse tartare served open faced on toasted light rye, garnished with capers and an quail egg yolk on top is quite possibly the best thing I ever ate (like the Food Network TV show). The mayo and red onions adds a nice kick, and the pickles are the perfect accompaniment to this exquisite sandwich. I am in love with a sandwich and it has left me asking for another!  As the night progresses and the drinks keep pouring in, we decide to order another dish – smoked sweetbreads with a sage cream and chive polenta. The sweetbreads have the perfect amount of crisp from the coating and a beautiful soft smooth texture inside which is oh so pleasing to the mouth. The portion is generous enough to share for two and the polenta is perfection – smooth and flavourful. 

We pass on dessert, despite how tempting the chocolate-ginger cake with gastric and shredded apples sounded.  

Overall, the experience at the Black Hoof left us truly satisfied and with a desire to come again…SOON!  We loved the atmosphere, the music fit the evening, the lighting romantic and the service excellent. The best part was unquestionably the food.

Rated: Perfection

The Black Hoof
928 Dundas Street West

Chef/Owner Grant van Gammeron
Owner Jen Agg

*note:  It seems that the dynamic duo of Van Gammeron and Agg are up to their creative genius again.  Looking for a new challenge they are soon to launch a new project in the space that the Hoof Café used to occupy.  If it is anything close to their level of food and service they dish out every night at The Black Hoof I can only imagine that things are going to be good…very good!

Black Hoof on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Adored boîte hits the spot! Bravo!

Café du lac….a little neighbourhood gem!
What can I say that hasn’t been said already about Café du lac? It truly is a gem - a neighbourhood secret that is frequented by faithful patrons. The restaurant delivers service with a smile and most importantly, it is deliciously Quebecois. I love all regional cooking but the food from this region is truly unique and distinct.  
We chose a weeknight to visit. First impressions do not disappoint. Kathryn, the owner, greets us warmly and sits us at our table. It’s a bit early but she confides in us that they are fully booked for the evening. Lucky for me, my wife Michelle has had the foresight to call ahead to make reservations. Reservations aren’t always necessary but are recommended especially on a Friday or Saturday night. They have live music performances on Friday and Saturdays are very lively and business is brisk.
As this was our first visit, we took the time to peruse the food and drink menu. The menu isn’t extensive, but very inspired. There is a definite flair for the classics, but the menu also includes a few unique dishes. Serving various types of game meat and inspired by the Quebecois region for its unique flavours, the food is comforting. Drinks are ordered and bread follows. Perfectly baked and accompanied by sun-dried tomato whipped butter, the warm bread was the perfect beginning towards a great evening of service and delicious food.

The charcuterie was the first dish to arrive at our table. I must confess I absolutely LOVE charcuterie!  I don’t know what it is about cured meat, crostini and terrine/pâté that I just can’t get enough of. I love trying all different kinds. Each and every charcuterie plate is unique to the chef - many cure and make their own, and even if they don’t, it’s just interesting to see what the Chef wishes to highlight. On this particular evening, the Chef served a trio of venison cured meat selections: 1) peppercorn venison, 2) sea salt and maple glaze and 3) blackcurrant venison salami. Other items on the plate included a duck breast prosciutto and a generous portion of foie gras perfectly seared and accompanied with chutney that was sweet and tart.  A sprinkle of sea salt over the foie gras was the perfect touch to balance all the flavours. This charcuterie is perfect for two as a starter or if you’re like me… potentially it is a meal for one.  It goes extremely well with a cider or a glass of wine.

Our next dish was one of Café du Lac’s signatures – poutine with cream sauce, cheese curds and pulled beef short-ribs. The cheese curds are gooey and oh so yummy! The pulled pork is tasty and adds the ideal touch of salt needed to pull the dish together.  The fries are golden and treated with care, made with Yukon Jack potatoes, fried twice and piled high on the plate. I have had my share of poutine and this one is definitely at the top of my list. It is decadent and comforting. You also have the option of adding foie gras. 

For our main dish, we were lucky to have the opportunity to experience Canard dans une jarre - Duck in a Jar. If you want to enjoy this divine foie gras stuffed duck magret immersed in venison balsamic reduction with savoy cabbage, leeks and Berkshire pork double smoked bacon on a week night, you must pre order one day in advance (otherwise it’s a weekend special). This delicious dish will please all your tastes buds. When the jar is removed, you’ll be overwhelmed with the scent of bacon, balsamic reduction and the duck. The rustic mashed potato is the perfect compliment to the dish. Every bite I took made me smile. I crave to have it again (soon)!
Before dessert, the owner, Kathryn, came by to ask how we were doing and was beaming with pride with her kitchen staff and the menu that she has created and rightfully so! When we heard the desserts were homemade, we had to try. The dessert menu is small, but there is most certainly something for everyone. It ranges from the chocolaty to sweet to tart. Michelle and I opted for the maple tart with vanilla and lemon Chantilly and the bagatelle. I must say that I am not normally impressed with sweets and only very rarely have what I would describe as an epiphany, but these desserts gave me pause to reflect and reconsider my normal aversion to sweets. The maple tart was perfectly balanced (we were concerned it would be too sweet, but upon Kathryn’s suggestion, we gave it a try and were glad we did).  It was elegant and oh so dreamy good! The bagatelle was a lovely, a lemon curd triffle vanilla sponge cake that had a punch of tartness that was counter-balanced by sweetness of berries and whipped cream.  Magnificent and very rewarding! 
Café du lac impressed and delighted our palettes with its dishes and desserts.
Scoring 4.5/5
Owner Kathryn Ashby
Chef  Hudson Bernard
Dress is casual
Live music on Fridays
Reservations recommended
BYOW on Thursdays ($5 corkage applies)


Cafe Du Lac on Urbanspoon

Monday, 2 May 2011

Salads Part Two

How to dress the perfect salad?
 When I began my apprenticeship at a boutique hotel in Toronto, I started my kitchen career at the ‘garde manger’ position. That meant it was my responsibility to take care of preparing the cold appetizers, desserts, hors d’oeuvres and salads. It was hard work, but I learned a lot very quickly.
One of the most useful and valuable skills that I learned was how to dress a salad. I can’t think of a worse first impression than a poorly done salad. If a salad is over or under-dressed, it gives me a bad first impression and it makes it difficult for me to enjoy the rest of a meal. A salad, as with any other appetizer, is supposed to awaken my taste buds and wet the appetite for what hopefully is a great meal to come.  However, many times the salad is not well executed…and there is really no excuse.  Just follow these simple steps to salad glory!
 Here are some tips to follow:
1.       Wash your greens in cold running water and then toss into a salad spinner (or use paper towels to dry)
2.       Rip the leaves! Do not cut with a knife; this ultimately leads to dark edges and bruising of delicate greens
3.       Prep your other ingredients – be as creative as you want i.e. tomatoes, spring onions, fresh basil leaves, etc…
4.       Prep your vinaigrette (pictured here is my Horseradish Dijon Vinaigrette – see previous post for recipe)
5.       In a cold clean bowl, add ½ of the vinaigrette that you would normally use to dress your salad.  Most people tend to add too much dressing.  Remember that you can always add more as opposed to take away afterwards.
6.       Add your washed greens to the bowl and toss. You can use tongs or your fingers. Be gentle!
7.       Taste, adjust and season. Yes, I did say season the salad. The dressing gives flavour but sometimes a pinch of salt and a few cracks of pepper will make a world of difference. Even a squeeze of lemon or lime can spark up the flavour.
8.       Add your other ingredients.  Taste again and enjoy!
9.       Serve immediately! Do not let your dressed salad sit for longer than necessary as the vinaigrette begins to “cook” the greens almost immediately and the result is less than tasty.

Speaking about salad, it’s dinner time for my wife and I so please excuse me!  Hope these tips come in handy and be sure to visit again for more tips and techniques!